To be honest….I’m probably the one on the left, but I can also totally identify with the one on the right:
To be honest….I’m probably the one on the left, but I can also totally identify with the one on the right:
A colleague of mine took this lovely photo of Lauren I at the Science Olympiad:
In looking at the photo, I realized:
A.) I should’ve removed my headphone cord from around my neck.
B.) I need to whiten my teeth again.
C.) Lauren needs a haircut
D.) This child looks absolutely nothing like me.
Later, in the car, I showed Lauren the photo on my phone and said something about us looking nothing alike.
Lauren: I know. Sometimes I wonder if I’m adopted.
Me: Well, I was there and I can tell you that you weren’t. This body right here (waving my hand over my abdomen) created you. *evil “muwaahhaaahhaaa”*
Me: Though, I was just listening to this fascinating podcast about two girls who were switched at birth and didn’t find out until they were in their 40s or 50s. Maybe you were mixed up in the hospital nursery. (BTW…this is me joking, not being cruel to my kid).
Lauren: But Aunt Rhonda! I look just like Aunt Rhonda.
Dan’s sister, Aunt Rhonda (and Uncle Bill)
Me: Oh…right, Aunt Rhonda. Hmmm….well, I guess you’re ours then.
That Friday night at my in-laws house, I tell this story to family, including Aunt Rhonda who says…
Aunt Rhonda: Well, that really only proves who her father is.
Me: (LOL) Oh, man, why didn’t I think to say that? Good one, Rhonda!
Yes, she’s all Cass.
I know these are the rules for my kids at my mom’s house:
On a rare weeknight in which K had nothing to do — no musical practice, no piano lessons, no voice lessons, no homework — she dug up a pom-pom animals craft kit she had gotten for her birthday in July.
There were illustrated instructions, but…of course, things like this are always confusing the first time (ever try to read a sewing pattern? Keep your seam-ripper nearby!) I figured it would end in frustration and anger, and it did.
When I asked what happened to the pig she was working on, she said it got all tangled up and she put it away. She quit.
I find this happens a lot with her. She’s a perfectionist. This is not a good thing as it means if she can do something perfectly, she often doesn’t want to do it at all. Or bother trying because that involves the risk of failing (i.e. imperfection).
I knew that if I let that pink tangle of yarn sit shoved in that box, it would never see the light of day again. She’d never try to make another pig…or any pom-pom animal. She’d tried once. She failed. She was done. It was too hard. Done.
When she gives up on things, I always ask, “If you don’t try and keep trying, how will you ever learn to do anything? Hoping and wishing doesn’t work.”
Sometimes I can get her to try again. Sometimes I can’t.
The ukulele she wanted so badly for Christmas sits zipped in its case. She halfheartedly tried to play on Christmas Day. She immediately learned she wasn’t a musical prodigy and so, to my knowledge, hasn’t picked it up since.
Tenacity. Grit. Staying power. Dedication. Perseverance. Whatever you want to call it, I’ve found that teaching kids to stick with something is one of the hardest lessons to teach.
The pom-pom pig presented an opportunity.
“Kelly, you can’t give up on something that easily,” I said. “Bring it here. We’ll do it together.”
I patiently (and if you know me…you know this is miraculous) untangled the wadded up bundle of pink yarn, while K sat beside me. I followed the instructions and just when I was about to tie up my bundle, it slid off the end of the fork I was using to wrap it.
Again, I spent five minutes unraveling and untangling. I started over, being more careful this time to stay away from the top tines of the fork and holding my finger over the yarn so it wouldn’t slip off again. Because I had learned something from my failure.
This is how it works. You try. You fail. You learn. You try again.
Writing. Playing instruments. Making crafts. Sewing. Careers. Algebra. Running marathons. Life.
I’m finding it’s a very difficult concept to explain to kids, but a much easier one to demonstrate. Even more so with a low-stakes project like a fuzzy pink yarn pig.
I had to take L to swim practice, so I couldn’t help K finish the pig, but we did most of the hard part (making the pom) together before I left.
Ten minutes later she texted me this:
Today a pom-pom pig. Tomorrow maybe an algebra equation. Five years from now an overwhelming college project. Fifteen years from now…who knows?
About Just Write: Just Write is my adaptation of free writing, a technique in which a person writes continuously and quickly without little regard for spelling, grammar, or topic. It helps writers overcome blocks of apathy and explore everything from meaningful topics to mundane observations with the same effort and without the pressure of crafting perfect prose. I just start writing.
“What ends up revealing itself when free writing is that everything has meaning. That is a magnificent gift of writing. If we write from a free heart-gut place, our souls start speaking.”
A little set-up: I recently upgraded Lauren’s texting phone from Verizon (paying $40 a month fora texting phone) to a Smartphone at Cricket (Free phone, $30 a month unlimited everything), but I’ve yet to give her the phone because she’s missing a lot of homework assignments. So, yeah, I’m holding the phone hostage ….or dangling it like a carrot…whatever….a mom’s gotta do what a mom’s gotta do.
Anyway…occasionally, I let her play with it for an hour or so in evenings, hoping it might motivate her to get her work done so she can have the phone. Nope…it’s not really working. She may never get the phone, but…anyway…this morning:
Lauren: Mom, what do do with my phone that’s in your work bag all day?
Me: Nothing. I just leave it in there.
Lauren: You should take it out and play Pokemon Go on it.
Me: I’m working at work.
Lauren: You can’t tell me you never take breaks.
Me: I don’t even know what Pokemon is.
Lauren: A smartphone is kinda wasted on you, mom.
This story requires a little set up:
I recently had to take Lauren to the college I work at to be in the background of a photo I needed to take with a student. The student turned out to be a very handsome (and kind) young man who plans to be a neurosurgeon some day.
We did the photos and when we got in the car afterwards, I made some comment about how nice and attractive he was and Lauren busts out: “OMG, I know! He had like a six pack! No, he had like an 8-pack! And, I just kept telling myself…don’t look at his abs…don’t look at his abs.”
Three days later, we’re taking a walk on the bayfront, when out of the blue….
Lauren: Mom, if anything ever goes wrong with my brain, call that guy.
Me: *confused* What?
Lauren: That guy from the college who’s going to be a brain surgeon — Dr. Abs.
Me: *laughing* Deal!
Walking along the bayfront one evening, Lauren and I passed by the Victorian Princess, Erie’s scenic paddle boat. The gangplank is suspended above the water, a foot or so from the pier. Lauren notices the sign on the gangplank, which reads: Do Not Enter.
Lauren: See, now that just makes me want to enter. When they tell me not to do something, then I really, really want to do it. They should just not say anything and then I’d never even think about it.
Me: *OMG…she is my child!* I know exactly what you mean.
In the car, Lauren mentions something about her Child Development class…
Lauren: Yeah, but babies don’t like me. I mean, Kinzlee (her 1yo cousin) is the only baby that ever even smiled at me.
Me: Well, you know, you can probably babysit her. Deana would probably like some extra help sometimes and you’re old enough.
Lauren: Yeah, but I don’t know how to change diapers.
Me: You could learn.
Lauren: I don’t really see a point in that.
Me: Uh, who is going to change diapers if you have kids some day?
Lauren: Well, I guess I need a husband who knows how.
Lauren: And, you will, cause you’ll probably be watching them, too. I know that you love babies.
It just didn’t add up. I knew my daughter Lauren, then 11, was very smart, but her grades — some of them anyway — didn’t show it. She had three Ds on her report card, the result of missing homework, incomplete assignments, and, I thought at the time, her laziness.
“You should have her tested, Heather, I think she’s gifted,” said my friend Elaine LaFuria, who teaches exceptional kids at Harbor Creek High School. I snorted and said, “Let me show you her report card, Elaine.”
“Grades aren’t the only measure of intelligence,” LaFuria said. “Kids like her fall through the cracks and get labeled bad students. Get her tested and then you’ll know what’s going on.” I requested that her school do an intelligence evaluation. This is a formal process in public schools that involves the school psychologist doing interviews with teachers and the child, as well as intelligence testing.
Ninety days later, the school principal, psychologist, gifted teacher, and my husband and I sat clustered in a small office where I learned that, indeed, Lauren had a high IQ. I also learned that she exhibited many of the classic signs of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD. It felt like a gut punch. I felt everything from relief and vindication to guilt and anxiety.
I took her to a licensed psychologist in Erie who did his own evaluation and confirmed she had many of the symptoms of ADHD, except the last D. He didn’t think it was a disorder. After living with her and the diagnosis and reading volumes of information over the past year, I agree. I don’t think ADHD is a disorder. I think it’s a difference. It’s one that doesn’t fit well into our school systems where all children are expected to learn the same way, but there are things that you can do to help both you and your child to be successful.
Here’s what I’ve learned in the past year.
Girls exhibit ADHD differently than boys. The “hyperactivity” part in girls with ADHD is often exhibited not through physical activity, but talking. Girls with ADHD are the chatty Cathys, the daydreamers and the scatterbrains.
Kids can be good at hiding the symptoms of ADHD. Shame and fear drives kids with ADHD to hide symptoms and lie to avoid punishment. If they have a high IQ, they can often hide it for years until the wheels fall off, usually when greater autonomy is expected in junior high or high school.
ADHD = late and disorganized. One of the biggest challenges facing kids with ADHD are “executive functions,” which include things like planning, organization, remembering things and prioritizing tasks. This is the greatest source of frustration for me as a parent and I’m sure for Lauren’s teachers, too. Case in point: Her bus has come at 6:42 a.m. for the last six years and every morning the bus’s arrival seems to come as a surprise to Lauren, who runs out the door disheveled without a coat, hands full of shoes, books, homework and a hairbrush. It doesn’t matter how early I get her up.
She doesn’t think like I do. Her mind makes connections differently than mine. For instance, if I need to remember to take something to work, I’ll write myself a note and put it by my purse. If Lauren needs to remember something, she’ll toss a pillow in front of her door or a pair of dirty socks on the TV stand and then she’ll remember she needs to do X, Y or Z. It doesn’t make sense to me, but it’s perfectly logical in her mind. Fine (but I draw the line at dirty socks on furniture).
Make teachers your partners. Unless you have a formal special education plan (we opted not to do that), your child’s teacher(s) may or may not be aware of her intelligence evaluation. I told Lauren’s teachers that she has both a high IQ and ADHD so they know that she is capable of completing assignments but may require some additional redirection or reminders.
Offer guidance, but not micromanaging. Lauren needs more help prioritizing and organizing her schoolwork than most kids her age. I don’t go through her backpack every day like I did when she was in elementary school, but I do ask if there’s anything she needs to give or show me. I also ask her teachers to alert me if she’s missing a bunch of assignments or has a big project she should be working on at home. I try not to get involved until I need to because I want her to develop her own self-management skills.
Socially, they don’t always fit in. Some peers (and adults) find kids with ADHD annoying. In Lauren’s case, she’s fortunate to have some great teachers and a tight circle of good friends who accept and appreciate her for who she is.
She has a “Ferrari brain with bicycle brakes.” ADHD specialist Dr. Edward Hallowell perfectly explains ADHD in a YouTube video in which he said he congratulates kids who have been recently diagnosed and tells them “The good news is that you have an amazing machine in your head. It’s a Ferrari brain. But you’ve got a problem. You’ve got bicycle brakes. You can’t stop when you need to.” It takes a while for them to develop their brakes and steering system.
Extremes are where they live. Lauren’s report card is a mix of high and low. If she’s interested in a subject and/or likes the teacher, it’s all As. If she finds the class boring or it requires a lot of paperwork, it’s all low Cs and Ds. I’ve learned to celebrate the As and insist she get a passing grade in the other classes. If you saw her reading grades, you’d never believe she’s a voracious reader who devoured “2,000 Leagues Under the Sea” in one weekend. She just isn’t going to do well in that kind of class.
They tend to overreact, and it’s not their fault. This is the most important thing I learned last year. Those with ADHD are flooded with stimuli, including emotions. It’s not me. It’s not her. She’s not a spoiled brat. When she feels something, she feels it so completely and is so overwhelmed with that emotion that she cannot see beyond it. Five minutes later, logic and reasoning return and she apologizes. Remember, Ferrari brain with bicycle brakes.
They can hyper focus. When Lauren is into something, like science, she’s completely into it. She enjoys hands-on, experiential learning (most ADHD kids do). Encourage those interests. She was a superstar on her school’s Science Olympiad team, and organized and led a team of classmates in a local environmental science competition.
Shut the door. I hate clutter, and I prefer my home and office to be neat and organized. Lauren finds comfort in chaos. Her bedroom makes me twitch, but I’ve learned to shut the door and let her have that space.
They hear everything. Those with ADHD have trouble filtering out or ignoring conversations around them. This is why they are easily distracted by talking classmates or someone clicking a pen. Moms, this also means they can hear you talk about them from two rooms away. Trust me on this.
Timers help. ADHD kids cannot keep track of time and often don’t transition well. This spring, I instituted the use of a ticking kitchen timer that she carries with her in the morning to keep her on track. It worked well because it’s both a visual and audio reminder.
Confiscate all electronics at night. Kids with ADHD typically have trouble shutting off their brains to sleep. I learned it was imperative to collect her iPod, tablet and cellphone because she’s bad at self-regulating and will stay up all night building new Minecraft worlds or binging on Netflix. Then, she’s a nightmare at 6 a.m.
ADHD is not something to be ashamed of. The more research I do on ADHD, the more I think people who have it actually have an advantage over traditional straight-A students. ADHD kids are the creative ones. They’re the game-changers. They are the ones who will accomplish incredible things, if they don’t acquire the real disabilities of shame and low self-esteem.
Answer the medication question for your situation. Every parent and child needs to make this decision for themselves. I was adamantly opposed to it at first. Then, I talked to some other parents who were candid with me about their experiences, and I changed my mind. Here’s why: I thought what if I’m denying my child access to something that can help her be successful because of my personal or moral convictions? Would I deny her insulin if she were diabetic? If you do decide to try medication, you’ll need an official diagnosis before your doctor can prescribe anything. It’s common for most to try several different medications and dosages before finding one that works well for them. ADHD medication can be quite costly, even with insurance.
They are in good company. The list of accomplished people with ADHD is long and includes people like Michael Phelps, Walt Disney, Agatha Christie, Mozart, Whoopi Goldberg, John Lennon, Thomas Edison and JFK. Visit http://psychcentral.com/lib/famous-people-with-adhd/ for an impressive list.
Parents can set the tone. How I frame this “disorder” can set my daughter up to succeed or fail, to have confidence in herself or not. We choose to look at the positives of ADHD (and there are many) and find ways to help her strengthen the brakes she needs to control that Ferrari brain.